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How Much Control Do Children Have in Texas Custody Decisions?

Under standard Texas law, all issues pertaining to the children of divorce are decided based on the best interests of the children. The children’s preferences often play a role in those decisions. During my many years as a Houston family law attorney, I have seen the law evolve to strike a balance between what children want and what represents their best interests.

Older children can potentially choose to live with neither parent, based on the provisions of a Texas statute pertaining to removal of disabilities of minority. This statute applies to children at least 16 years old living outside the home and providing for their own financial support. Subject to court approval, they essentially gain the rights of adulthood before reaching 18 years of age. However, children 12 years of age or older do have a degree of input into the child custody and residential decisions:

  • By meeting with the judge — Judges typically talk with children in chambers to find out their preferences and the reasons behind them.
  • Through courtroom testimony — Most parents prefer to protect their children from the stress of the witness stand. However, they may have to testify in the rare instances when a divorce case goes to a jury trial.
  • Through a representative of the child — Children can express their wishes to a family counselor, who can testify before the court. In some cases, a lawyer solely dedicated to the interests of the children — called an amicus attorney — testifies on their behalf.

Though they may have input, the children do not have actual control. Under Texas law, they have the right to have their preferences heard but the judge — or the jury — has the legal right to make the final decision. As an experienced Texas child custody lawyer, I have talked with children who make the right decisions for the right reasons. However, I have also known children who clearly want to live with the parent they view as most lenient.

Seek guidance from a Houston family law attorney who knows how to protect the best interests of the children and the entire family.

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Robert Reid McInvale
Attorney at Law

Robert Reid McInvale is an experienced family law attorney with a comprehensive practice in Houston. He provides dedicated and strong advocacy for his clients, helping them with all the issues surrounding their divorce, separation, child custody, and other marriage and family matters. Attorney McInvale—Reid to clients and friends—seemed destined for a law career. Born while his father was attending Emory University Law School, Reid grew up in Manchester, GA. His father was the city attorney for many years, as well as head of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce. It is in the family blood to become lawyers and help people get justice. U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall is part of the McInvale family tree.

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